Thanks to the scoring of Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah, AS Roma are enjoying a fine start to their Serie A season, despite early expectations that it might be difficult for them to keep up with Juventus and other Champions League spot contenders.
There is no better scoring duo in all of Europe’s top 5 leagues, with Dzeko scoring 10 league goals so far and Salah adding 8. Their 18 beats the 16 from Messi & Suarez (Barcelona), Cavani & Lucas Moura (PSG) and Hazard & Costa (Chelsea). For Salah this is just the continuation of his form for the Giallorossi from last season when he was on loan at the club. For Dzeko, this is something of a comeback after a rough couple of years.
And it’s a sign of things going well for Roma. The premier club in Italy’s capital had a rough start to the season: Knocked out of the Champions League by Porto, and losing twice in the first six weeks, leaving them with 10 points out of a possible 18 by the end of September. Not the end of the world, but they were certainly anticipating a better start. Selling Miralem Pjanic to Juventus is simply part of the surviving in Italy, and the same goes for Napoli and their sale of Gonzalo Higuain. However, everything else, including the 2nd and 3rd spots, are up for grabs, and Roma did a good job of setting themselves up for it.
Since their 3-1 loss at Torino, Roma have won six of seven matches, a 0-0 draw at Empoli their only droppage of points. This includes a 2-1 win over Inter and a 3-1 win at Napoli. They entered the November international break after a 3-0 win over Bologna. However, what comes next will determine, probably, if they’re going to keep nagging Juventus or contend for one of the Champions League spots, nothing more.
Roma will finish November with matches against Atlanta (fifth, away) and Pescara. And the begins the real bloodbath: A derby against Lazio (4th), followed by hosting AC Milan (3rd) and then visiting Juventus, the five-time defending champions and current league leaders, with 30 out of a possible 36 points. Roma are four points behind. If they can come out of this gauntlet with at least five points, or at least not lose to both Milan and Juventus, they’ll position themselves for a good run entering 2017.
Dzeko didn’t really do much but miss easy opportunities his first season at Roma. Coming off a bad year at Manchester City, he disappointed with just 8 league goals in 31 matches. Suddenly, he’s sharp again, and the highest scorer in the history of the Bosnian national team has asserted himself as a top quality finisher, already reaching double digit scoring for the 7th time since arriving at Wolfsburg a decade ago. For Salah, who scored 14 goals for Roma while on loan from Chelsea last season, this is another opportunity to prove that his difficulties at Chelsea had more to do with the manager, and less with his ability as a player.
Roma might not be deep enough to run with Juventus the entire year, and until they establish a consistent presence in the Champions League the financial margin between the clubs will continue to grow. But for now, they seem to have a scoring & creative duo helping them be second best, which is all you can ever ask for these days in the Serie A. Championships remain a dreamers thing.